January 16, 2018

For Volunteers: Guide to Food Safety

Many selfless people spend Christmas and other holidays serving food for those less fortunate. For those people, and those who volunteer at church dinners and community gatherings, the USDA has put together a booklet on a volunteer’s guide to food safety. The advice is intended for consumer use only, not for retail or institutional settings, but it’s a good mini refresher course for all.

The information can be downloaded at the USDA web site. The information starts with an introduction to foodborne illness and how bacteria get into food. It includes tips for preserving the evidence if someone does get sick, and how to report a possible outbreak.

Some tips in the booklet include selecting a reliable person to be in charge. That person should contact the local health department to learn about any rules and regulations about serving food to groups. She should also make sure the necessary equipment is available, and that there is enough storage space, refrigeration space, and cooking space to handle the event.

The booklet includes a handy chart giving the safe minimum internal temperatures for foods, and cooking guidelines, along with tips for transporting and reheating foods. A cold storage chart will help you keep track of foods before the event. And there are reminders to follow the four basic tenets of serving safe food: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

In addition, the USDA’s fact sheet “7 Food Safety Steps for Successful Community Meals” is a useful guide for events. It provides an overview of the seven steps necessary for a successful and safe community gathering.

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